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Harry Reid kills health care reform

November 18, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled his health care plan today, and according to Politico, it incorporates the language of the Capps Amendment on federal funding of abortion.

The bill grants the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to determine whether federal money is being used to fund abortions under the public plans, but doesn’t ban those plans from offering the coverage. Reid’s bill also explicitly requires insurers to separate private premiums from any public subsidies used to pay for that coverage to assure taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund the procedure – which, as we all know by now, is prohibited under the Hyde Amendment[...]the bill also requires each exchange to offer one plan that provides abortion coverage and one that doesn’t – a major sticking point for critics of the original House language. California Rep. Lois Capps, who tried to hatch a compromise on the Energy and Commerce Committee, commended Reid’s language, saying, “I am pleased that the Senate has adopted a reasonable, common ground approach on this difficult question. It appears that their approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill.”

Various sources have indicated that the only two pro-life Democrats in the Senate, Ben Nelson and Bob Casey, are willing to accept this compromise.

For the moment, let’s put aside the question of whether or not the Capps language actually prohibits federal funding of abortion. That’s an argument that’s been had many times over on this blog, and it involves issues such as the fungibility of money that are not easily resolved (though it is clear that this would the first time that federal law would mandate private coverage of abortion). Instead, let’s look at things from a purely political standpoint.

Let’s say Nelson and Casey accept this compromise, and it eventually passes as part of the Senate bill. Given the backlash against the Stupak Amendment, the final conference report will very likely incorporate the Senate language on abortion. What will happen when the entire bill goes to the House for final approval? The entire bill will be voted down. Even with the Stupak Amendment, the original bill passed the House by a vote of 220-215. If the final bill contains the Capps language that was explicitly rejected by the USCCB and 40 or so House Democrats (most of whom looked to the USCCB for the final judgment on what is and is not acceptable), it will not pass, pure and simple. They will lose Representative Cao, the only Republican who voted for the original bill. At that point, only 2 more Democrats will need to defect. That is almost certain to happen. By capitulating to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, the Democrats have signed the death warrant on health care reform. And they must know it, too; it’s simple math, not doctorate-level political science.

Of course, not all of the blame belongs to Harry Reid. Plenty of blame belongs to those so-called “progressives” in the House and Senate who vowed to sacrifice health care reform if there was even the possibility (remote, even under Stupak) that it might cause some women to choose not to have their unborn children killed. Plenty of blame belongs to President Obama, who passed up a perfect opportunity to make good on all that wonderful talk of “common ground” and instead chose to condemn the Stupak Amendment.

But finger-pointing is ultimately futile. The bottom line is this: the Democrats have eliminated any doubt as to their true priorities and their true loyalties. They could have had stricter regulation of insurance companies. They could have had subsidies. They could even have had some form of a public option. And of course they could have made the Republicans irrelevant, and gained a huge legislative victory going into the 2010 midterms. They could have had everything  that they wanted (and quite a bit of what the American people need) if they had only had the political courage to make one little concession to the pro-life movement. But that pissed off NARAL, and so they threw it all away. Pathetic. Anathema sit!

UPDATE

According to The Hill, Senator Nelson has now said that Reid’s language is unacceptable:

“We have looked at the language,” Nelson told The Hill. “That language is not language that I would prefer. I think you need to have it eminently clear that no dollars that are federal tax dollars, directly or indirectly, are used to pay for abortions and it needs to be totally clear. [It’s] not clear enough, I don’t think,” Nelson said.

Given that Nelson (unlike Bob Casey) is a key swing vote, there may be hope yet.

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35 Comments
  1. Eric Brown permalink
    November 18, 2009 11:49 pm

    Senator Nelson to my knowledge has not conceded yet. I know of a CNN report that misrepresented his sentiments. He has made statements borderlining making abortion a deal-breaker. For someone who has been as terribly consistent as Senator Nelson, I would be awfully surprised if he caved in. Senator Casey is another story.

  2. Kevin in Texas permalink
    November 18, 2009 11:50 pm

    Mickey, you speak the truth here, one that will be difficult for many Obama supporters and progressives (Catholic and otherwise) to swallow. Prepare yourself for some criticism, and soon, my young friend…

  3. standmickey permalink
    November 18, 2009 11:51 pm

    Eric: I too was quite surprised to hear that Nelson might be caving (and not at all surprised about Casey). Hopefully you’re right and the reports are not true. We’ll see.

  4. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2009 7:11 am

    if they had only had the political courage to make one little concession to the pro-life movement. But that pissed off NARAL, and so they threw it all away. Pathetic.

    Mickey,

    You write as if no Democrat actually believed that abortion was an important constitutional right –and it is a constitutional right. If the Stupak Amendment was the great pro-life victory that many here considered it to be, rather than a way of making health-care reform abortion neutral, then you may disagree vehemently with those who want to partially undo it, but at least you have to acknowledge (IMHO) that many pro-choice Democrats are sincerely pro-choice, not just craven lackeys of NARAL.

    What if a major health-care reform bill is passed with Stupak, and then Stupak is constitutionally challenged and invalidated?

  5. Matt Bowman permalink
    November 19, 2009 7:47 am

    What I find most striking is that the poll numbers being put out by CNN and CBS of all places are showing that people specifically oppose not just “taxpayer funding of abortion” but government subsidies for either the public option or for private plans if they cover abortion. This is true despite the incessant media and pro-abortion drumbeat claiming that Capps and its spawn prevent federal funding of abortion.

    Rep. Stupak knows this. “They’re not going to take it out. If they do, health care will not move forward,” Stupak told Fox News. “We won fair and square. … That’s why Mr. Axelrod’s not a legislator. He doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.”

    “The majority has spoken. Most people agree — do not use public funds for abortion,” he said. “You’re not going to summarily start dismissing amendments which the majority of the House of Representatives wanted because some person, David Axelrod or someone, doesn’t like it.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/11/17/stupak-health-care-stall-white-house-strips-abortion-restrictions/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%253A+foxnews%252Fpolitics+%2528FOXNews.com+-+Politics%2529

  6. Kurt permalink
    November 19, 2009 10:01 am

    Today or Friday, the Senate will up the House bill (as amended by Stupak). There will then be a motion to proceed. By Sunday, there will be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed on the House bill. Only after this point is the bill open to amendments including the Reid Substitute.

    Those who vote against the motion to proceed are voting against the House bill with the Stupak Amendment.

  7. November 19, 2009 10:20 am

    The problem is, the taxpayer is funding abortion today. 13 percent of abortions are billed to medicaid (Hyde amendment or not, everybody turns a blind eye to wiggle room at the state level).

    The problem is, most people simply do not understand the way budgets work. They think – public option with abortion implies taxpayer funded abortion. Actually no, as the public option is funded solely by premiums. The issue of course is subsidies, which will be paid whether the person chooses a private or public option.

    On the issue of subsidies, most people are not aware of the biggest one of all – $250 billion the government spends each year to make employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free. Since we all know this kind of insurance includes abortion, we can make the argument that the government is subsidizing abortion. As I said, non-economists might not understand the different between a tax and spending subsidy but the effect is the same.

    Like I said many times, I support the Stupak amendment, because it does create a firewall against subsidizing abortion is this narrow context. But we must not pretend that the taxpayer does not subsidize abortion. The only solution is to get abortion out of private coverage. Why are people not focused on this?

  8. standmickey permalink
    November 19, 2009 10:37 am

    Kurt: is that really how it works? I don’t think they’re voting on the House bill. I think they’re voting on Harry Reid’s bill, which already contains the Capps language. But you’re the expert on procedure, not me.

  9. Kurt permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:27 am

    Mickey,

    Yep, as I explained according to Reid’s office. All Republicans are expected to vote against the House bill with Stupak.

  10. Colin Gormley permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:41 am

    Hopefully this will put the final nail in the coffin of this really bad bill. The abortion zealots will sacrifice this bill at the altar of abortion.

    “The only solution is to get abortion out of private coverage. Why are people not focused on this?”

    We are. It’s called the pro-life movement. Banning abortion is a primary. Make it illegal, and the money stops (aside from the whole blackmarket thing).

  11. ctd permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:47 am

    David, the constitutional right to abortion is not absolute. It does not require funding, support, inclusion in government plans, or even indirect funding. In fact, it does not even require neutrality toward abortion in the law. The federal government and states are legally able to favor childbirth over abortion so long as it enact laws that constitute an “undue burden” on the right to abortion.

    Since the Stupak Amendment really only continues existing policy – policy that has not been found unconstitutional – I cannot envision how a reasonable argument could be made that it is constitutionally unenforceable.

  12. phosphorious permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:12 pm

    This situation could just as easily be described as a republican unwillingness to make “one little concession” to the pro-choice movement.

    The very same pro-life movement that re-elected a torturer, is getting set to torpedo much needed Health Care Reform.

    Abortion is not the only issue.

  13. M.Z. permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:39 pm

    There’s no guarantee it won’t pass. The ground will just move to other areas where compromise is possible. Thanks to NRTL, ALL, and all the other organizations opposing health care reform in toto, there simply aren’t enough pro-life votes to make the legislation more restrictive. Politics 101. The Capps language is good enough. The legislation needs to move forward.

  14. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:42 pm

    David, the constitutional right to abortion is not absolute.

    ctd,

    You could say that about most constitutional rights. Here’s a post from Prof. Kaveny over at dotCommonweal. She is a professor of law at Notre Dame, a columnist for Commonweal, and (as I am sure someone will point out) was on Obama’s Catholic Advisory Committee.

    Posted by Cathleen Kaveny
    on November 9th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Something is not sitting right.

    Given how much broader Stupak is than Hyde –in that it prevents people from using their own premium money to buy abortion coverage–requiring a separate rider– I bet we are going to see a constitutional challenge. Harris v. McRae, the abortion funding case, deals with funding of abortions per se. What Stupak is doing is saying that it won’t fund policies that provide abortions–even if the money comes from somewhere else. So an analogy would be could the Congress deny Medicare part A funding to hospitals that actually provide abortions? Or could Congress say, no Medicare for your hospital–any part of it if you do abortions anywhere within it.

    That would look, not so much like not funding abortion, but penalizing a hospital for choosing to offer them. That might be going too far–abortion wasn’t just decriminalized, it was found to be a constitutional right–at some point, treating it like a red-headed stepchild is going to back fire.

    I’m uneasy. I think there are problems ahead. I think this whole thing could pass, and the Stupak portion could be challenged constitutionally.

    As I said, many in the pro-life victory celebrated the passage of the Stupak Amendment as a pro-life victory, not just an abortion-neutral compromise. To the extent that it is a pro-life victory, it is a diminution of the right to abortion. I am not a constitutional lawyer, so I have very little idea of the constitutionality of Stupak. However, I have been reading Prof. Kaveny for quite some time now, and I find her to be extremely knowledgeable and deeply insightful. Note that she is not saying Stupak is unconstitutional. She’s saying it’s open to challenge.

  15. November 19, 2009 2:26 pm

    Here’s what John “Orange Man” Boehner said: “Sen. Reid’s Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee”

    This is as clear as it gets. The GOP is using abortion, and lying about abortion, to kill a bill on ideological grounds. A bit rich given that Boehner himself paid a “monthly abortion fee” for the past 18 years. We should resist falling for this crap.

  16. Colin Gormley permalink
    November 19, 2009 3:37 pm

    “Abortion is not the only issue”

    No but it is a foundational one. The right to life comes before anything else. It’s not “Universal Coverage” until the unborn are covered as well.

    Odd that I’d have to argue this on a “Catholic” site.

  17. Kurt permalink
    November 19, 2009 3:50 pm

    “No but it is a foundational one.”

    So how will the Republican caucus vote on the motion to proceed on the House bill?

  18. phosphorious permalink
    November 19, 2009 3:56 pm

    Odd that I’d have to argue this on a “Catholic” site.

    1) I’m a commenter, not a contributor. This site is as anti-abortion as any catholic blog out there, even if it’s not as conservative or republican.

    2) There is a real danger of making an idol out of anything, even a “foundational value.” Being anti-abortion does not save you. The blood of Christ saves you. If a single-minded defense of abortion leads you away from a genuinely catholic ethic, then what good is it?

  19. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2009 4:11 pm

    No but it is a foundational one. The right to life comes before anything else. It’s not “Universal Coverage” until the unborn are covered as well.

    Colin,

    I suppose one could say that the right to life for an individual has to come first, since being alive is a prerequisite for anything at all (in earthly life). But to say that abortion must be prohibited in health care reform or else tens of millions of people can’t have medical coverage is another matter entirely. Even if you make abortions “free” (as some like to put it), only those who procure them and provide them are culpable in individual cases. Why should more than 30 million people be punished because some will take advantage of abortion coverage?

    It reminds me of an old question I used to ask that I have never gotten a good answer to. How can I justify having so much, when others have nothing? Over 15 thousand children a day die of hunger-related causes. How can I justify having a nice meal at a restaurant when there is so much need out there? How can I justify having more than one pair of shoes? How can I justify having a television, a computer, an MP3 player, a camera, a refrigerator, a stove, an air conditioner? If others’ right to life takes precedence over everything, how can I justify anything other than a subsistence existence, with anything more than the barest of necessities to keep myself alive? (If i can justify that.)

  20. November 19, 2009 5:05 pm

    No but it is a foundational one. The right to life comes before anything else. It’s not “Universal Coverage” until the unborn are covered as well.

    Abortion is not a “foundational” issue. Issues are issues. The right to life is what is foundational, and that right is foundational to many many issues including health care.

  21. Colin Gormley permalink
    November 19, 2009 5:12 pm

    Quick note (having computer issues) but I misread the author of the comment and attributed it to a contributor of this site. I apologize for the error.

  22. Pinky permalink
    November 19, 2009 5:36 pm

    “If a single-minded defense of abortion leads you away from a genuinely catholic ethic, then what good is it?”

    I couldn’t let that comment go by unnoted. There can be no genuinely Catholic ethic which includes grave sin. There can be no support of evil in order to accomplish good.

  23. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2009 6:15 pm

    I couldn’t let that comment go by unnoted. There can be no genuinely Catholic ethic which includes grave sin. There can be no support of evil in order to accomplish good.

    Evil may not be supported, but evil (even “intrinsic evil”) may be tolerated. They are two quite different things, and I think when the issue is abortion, not a few in the pro-life movement believe that abortion may not only not be supported, it may not be tolerated.

    Voting for a health-care bill that has fewer restrictions on abortion than one would want could very well be a case of tolerating evil with good cause, and it would be a matter of prudential decision.

    Focusing exclusively on abortion simplifies matters, but the seamless-garment approach makes things much more difficult, and I think the latter is the authentically Catholic way.

  24. Matt Bowman permalink
    November 19, 2009 6:38 pm

    By “focusing exclusively on abortion” DN means “caring about abortion at all.” By “seamless garment approach” he means “doing things with no regard to their involvement in the killing of innocent children.” And it is always ironic for consummate believers in the abortion regime to claim to be authorities on what is “the authentically Catholic way”. But I understand why they use that strategy, since Catholics must be convinced that Evangelium Vitae is wrong in order for them to sign off on things like putting the present federal government politicians into power.

  25. phosphorious permalink
    November 19, 2009 6:48 pm

    There can be no genuinely Catholic ethic which includes grave sin.

    I agree. But “Abolish abortion before tackling any other moral problem,” which seems to be the modus operandi of the “pro-life” movement is not a genuinely Catholic ethic. It’s republican politics.

  26. phosphorious permalink
    November 19, 2009 7:39 pm

    By “focusing exclusively on abortion” DN means “caring about abortion at all.” By “seamless garment approach” he means “doing things with no regard to their involvement in the killing of innocent children.”

    Straw man.

    The pro-life movement has no credibility. In Bush we had the most anti-abortion president ever, and a Congress that supported everything he did. And no move to abolish abortion was made.

    The “pro-life” movement does nothing against abortion. But they will kill a health care bill that does not live up to their “standards.”

    Enough.

  27. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2009 8:01 pm

    By “focusing exclusively on abortion” DN means “caring about abortion at all.” By “seamless garment approach” he means “doing things with no regard to their involvement in the killing of innocent children.”

    Matt,

    This seems more like a personal attack on me than a response to what I said.

    If what you are saying is correct, my message would be translated as follows: “Caring about abortion at all simplifies matters, but doing things with no regard to their involvement in the killing of innocent children makes things much more difficult.” Would this make any sense coming from me, or anyone else?

    And it is always ironic for consummate believers in the abortion regime to claim to be authorities on what is “the authentically Catholic way”.

    If you mean to imply that I am a “consummate believer in the abortion regime” (which you clearly do), that is another personal attack.

  28. Stephanie Hunter permalink
    November 19, 2009 9:46 pm

    Reid must be careful in how he structures this bill, especially the public option part of the bill. If he does it wisely then it will succeed as it has here. http://cli.gs/23yYaM/

  29. Blackadder permalink
    November 20, 2009 12:07 am

    Apparently Prof. Kaveny isn’t familiar with Rust v. Sullivan.

  30. David Nickol permalink
    November 20, 2009 12:38 pm

    Apparently Prof. Kaveny isn’t familiar with Rust v. Sullivan.

    Blackadder,

    Doesn’t Rust v Sullivan deal with the government spending government money? Stupak deals with a woman spending her own money.

  31. November 20, 2009 12:54 pm

    $250 billion the government spends each year to make employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free. Since we all know this kind of insurance includes abortion, we can make the argument that the government is subsidizing abortion.

    The only way you can make that argument, MM, is to use the Democrat math that assumes that all money belongs to government and they, through the kindness of their hearts, give some of it back.

    It isn’t that way yet.

  32. Blackadder permalink
    November 20, 2009 2:28 pm

    David,

    The limitations in Rust applied to the use of private funds as well as to the government grant.

  33. David Nickol permalink
    November 20, 2009 2:47 pm

    The only way you can make that argument, MM, is to use the Democrat math that assumes that all money belongs to government and they, through the kindness of their hearts, give some of it back.

    Tony,

    Would a tax break to an individual to allow her to buy abortion coverage be government support of abortion? Or would it just be allowing her to spend her own money?

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